Thursday, February 02, 2006

Africa blog part 2: Kilimanjaro Climb -- Day 4

Day 4: Barranco Hut to Karanga Valley (14,800’)

Hike time: 3.5 hrs, Elevation change: 100 M
Estimated distance: 4km, Maximum elevation: 4590 M
Final elevation: 4000 M

From Barranco Hut we climb up through the edge of great Barranco 95 percentage of that day walking will be on elevation of 4250m. We will break our day at Karanga valley campsite at elevation of 4,000m walking time is 4 to 5 hrs on this day.




Our frozen tent at Barranco campsite


I woke up and amazingly, I felt awesome. Took a deep breath, I could breath again. I think the megadose of Diamox helped me, plus I seemed to have adjusted to the altitude overnight with sleep. I was still worried, because the imposing Barranco wall was pretty high and steep. We were still ascending, not by thousands of feet, but ascending sharply nevertheless. From here on, I would take it day by day...

I still was carrying a good at least 25 pounds, but ditched my down jacket to save weight. The day started out sunny and brisk. Godlisten kept on telling me that I'm carrying too much weight, but I told him I would drink a lot of it anyways.



Barranco Wall (looks small in the picture)


I stepped outside my tent to see my frozen soup remains at my feet and to the left of me, Barranco Wall with Uhuru peak dotted with glaciers and much, much higher than the top of Barranco Wall.



Uhuru Peak (left) overshadows Barranco Wall (right)


We had breakfast in the meal tents. As we were having breakfast, we could see Uhuru Peak and the clouds changing ever so swiftly as they crossed the peak. At one point the clouds formed zebra like stripes, which fascinated me. And in seconds, the clouds changed to wispy veils over the summit. Everyone asked how I was doing since I was in bad shape the previous night. I felt fine, ate as much as I could (which was not much), and took 2 glucose tablets for a bit of an energy boost. I felt good, but I was definitely lacking the energy I needed for continuing the hike. Pole pole



Zebra striped clouds over Uhuru Peak


We finished up breakfast, the porters packed the tents, I warmed up with my every morning stretches, then we were off to battle Barranco Wall. One by one, we hiked on down the valley, then up to the wall. We put up our trekking poles for this part, since it involves some class 3 climbing, which means you'll be on your hands and feet at some points.



See the white specs -- those are Barranco Wall climbers


Barranco Wall was a pretty fun hike to do. In short, it consisted of some switchbacks on a rocky trail. Some parts, the guides helped people get up. I think it would have been intimidating if I weren't a rock climber, but I could handle the vertigo just fine. The difficult part of Barranco wall was that the path was so narrow and porters needed to pass as well, so we stopped quite a bit for porters to pass.



Our group hiking up Barranco Wall


We got to a point where we were rewared with a view of Mt. Meru in front of us and 4 waterfalls to the left of us, trickling down the other side of the valley below the site we camped at.



The four waterfalls




Our group letting porters pass


The group as a whole took a rest stop along the wall in a convenient spot where we could keep the trail clear and all gather.



Me at the rest stop, wearing a borrowed Cloudveil fleece and borrowed long sleeve shirt underneath as well




The gang at the rest stop, as porters (amazing men) pass carrying loads on their heads


We headed off once more, ascending steeply, using our hands to help us out. I was so tempted to climb straight up some parts (juggy), but refrained. I was pretty weak overall.



I had a rough night, what can I say. Alexa and Ullrich behind me


After hiking for a long time, we got to a point near the top. It levelled off, and we took a second group break there. The clouds started to rise to us. We took pee breaks, shared snacks, and rested. As soon I came back from the boulder I used as a bathroom stop, the group was already packing up to to the last bit of Barranco Wall...straight up.



View from the second break stop


The majority of the group (aka the fast people) went on, while I trailed behind with Madhu, Teresa, and a few others. I met an Australian guy hiking with a different group. He was carrying a Spiderman backpack all the way up the mountain (I kid you not). We talked about Australia for a while, then continued on. The last bit up Barranco wall was fun. Godlisten would not let me take my pack up, so he carried it for me for this portion. Scrambling.

Finally, at the top of Barranco wall!!! We gathered at the top and rested, ate more snacks. The view of the valley and slope across the valley was covered by changing clouds. Rock piles marked the route.



Sherri at the edge of Barranco Wall




Rock pile marking the route


Now what they don't tell you is how long the hike *really* takes...the estimate says 3.5 hours...yeah right!

From the top of Barranco Wall, we descended quite a bit immediately. My knees hated me. Luckily, I had both knee braces on the entire trip so they weren't as bad as they would be. The scenary changed dramatically. Uhuru peak was to our left, covered in clouds at times, peeking through thinner clouds at other times. We were in the alpine desert, scattered with rocks and boulders, jagged peaks surrounding us, dry grasses, and previously glaciated landscape. The land to our left sloped, while the path was straight for a good while.



The group hiking on, Sean K to one side probably on a pee break


We made another group pitstop after a short ascent. This pitstop was littered with boulders. And after that, the landscape changed even more dramatically. The fast group continued, a few slow-fast group trickled, I by myself, and a few hikers some minutes behind me. It was desolate. The landscape looked so foreign, once again, like I was on the moon. To the left, the summit. All around me, gravelly sloped lands with scattered boulders. A foot trail trodden down by previous hikers. Clouds surrounding everywhere and rising swiftly, so that you could not see very far in front of you.



A lone porter on the desolate trail




The summit is behind the clouds


I caught up with Sean and Deanna for a while. We hiked together, talked. Deanna sported her Nike pre-release beanie and all Nike gear(she works for Nike). We came to a point where we ascended sharply, then descended quite a ways into a valley. It was a pretty interesting descent, some parts slippery. I fell. No big deal. Got up, went on.



View of the tents (dots on the other side), the foot path leading up the valley that separated us from campsite


Then we saw the tents, and I grinned with excitement, pointing, yelling, "Camp!!!" It did not look too far, within reach. We hiked on only to find a vast valley separating us from camp. That meant that we would have to descend the entire valley, then climb it again in order to get to the campsite. Crap!



The picture does no justice to show you scale. But that's the footpath (straight up) to Karanga campsite. If you can see little spots, those are people hiking up it


We got to the bottom of the valley. I rested. Admired the view of Uhuru when the clouds would clear. Then began the ascent to Karanga camp. Sean and Deanna continued ahead of me. I continued alone. I worked up the pathway slowly, taking many resting breaks. There's not much oxygen to work with at this level, so taking it easy was the plan. Plus, I was not in tip top shape from my episode the night before.



A less cloudy Uhuru Peak


When I was about a third of the way up, I spotted Teresa in her blue jacket, Madhu in her red jacket, and Godlisten across the valley from me. They probably thought the same thing once they saw the valley...

Pole pole. I made it up to the Karanga campsite. Exhausted. I joined Sean in our little green tent with broken zipper. Karanga was windy as hell. And when I say windy, well, it's hard to describe. The clouds swamped us, the cold set in. The down jacket was out. Gloves as well.



A cloudy Karanga campsite


I walked around, ducked into the party tent (the green tent) which was packed, ducked out of it, found the 'decent' long drop further away (it had a door and a bigger square cut out of the floor -- which means less chances of other peoples' missed hole dumps, and it was level), met a hiker with another group who was not impressed by his tour company, then hung out with Daisy on a boulder. She was not feeling too well. I was feeling all right. We talked about anything and everything. Not believing that we had made it that far. Getting fresh mountain air. Oh damn, it was cold!!!



Uhuru Peak as the backdrop to our campsite

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